This time, it’s not Beyoncé and Jay-Z, nor Orelsan, but Bruce Springsteen who will take the stage at the Arena this Saturday evening. “The Boss” will steal the show from the players of Racing 92, once again forced to leave their stadium for musical purposes. As a result, the band of Gaël Fickou will welcome Rugby Club Toulonnais to the Stade Océane in Le Havre (9:05 p.m.).
This is not the club’s first relocation this season, but the third and second in Normandy. The first trip to Le Havre – last December in the Champions Cup – had been synonymous with a spanking received by Ciel et Blanc against the Irish of Leinster (42-10). “The choice to play at home in Le Havre is not a disadvantage. We are very happy to go to Le Havre. We hope that our public will be present and also the Le Havre public. In addition, the stadium matches our colors, we will not be out of place“, however assured the coach Laurent Travers before the meeting.
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More recently (on April 15), the Altoséquanais traveled to Pas-de-Calais to face UBB, another candidate for the final phase. Fortunately, the relocation had been successful, but it had almost turned sour in an oh so important meeting in the final sprint. Facing the RCT (7th) this Saturday, Racing (4th) is still playing a high-stakes match to stay in the Top 6 and will have to play two hours from its den of Nanterre.
“The next game won’t really be at home because we’ll be playing in Le Havre, but it’s a very big game for us. Even bigger than that of Bayonne. For the jump-off, it is very important. We are focused on us. The most important thing was to win today (Saturday May 6, editor’s note) to get into the six before the last two matches“, explained the opener Finn Russell after the big victory last weekend against Bayonne (55-14), at the Arena.
Sport “We don’t have our identity, we don’t have any benchmarks, it bothers me”
On the side of the supporters, this new displacement is badly received. “Personally I can’t move, but it’s pretty goodn”, slips Christophe Barboro, president of the group of supporters of XV Ciel et Blanc du Plessis-Robinson. Of the 150 members of the group, a third will go to Le Havre. “We don’t have our identity, we don’t have any landmarks, it bothers me. Many do not follow the rhythm and will not be able to come“.
“At this time of the season with such important matches, imagine losing… The season can be over,” continues Barboro, who made the trip to Lens three weeks ago. “At Bollaert, it was not bad. . We sang the corons, but there had been twelve buses leaving Paris against seven next weekend“. The president of the group warns about the relocation, which he is far from considering as a home game for the Racingmen: “There are also local supporters who can turn against you. I’m sure many don’t even know that Racing plays at home. In Lens, there were many locals who supported the UBB“.
Racing supporters had made the trip to Lens.
Despite the dissatisfaction of the supporters, not everything is to be thrown away. “The nice side is that we find an open stadium, with the rain. That’s the spirit of rugby. It’s nice that we don’t recognize the shirts because of the mud at the end of the match “, continues Barboro, not satisfied with the arrival of the club at the Arena, in 2017.
Sport Toulon, Bayonne… Relocations that cause you to lose points
By winning at Bollaert in April, Racing 92 had warded off fate. Especially after the defeat against La Rochelle in 2021-2022 in a Champions Cup semi-final. Overall, on their numerous relocations (Vannes, Le Mans, Le Havre, Lens, Lille, Nantes), the Ciel et Blancs are far from being able to present a satisfactory success rate.
But Ile-de-France residents are not the only ones to suffer from this loss of bearings. Just turn to the Toulonnais. The RCT players lost last weekend at the Vélodrome against La Rochelle (8-23). A defeat which could be costly in the event of non-qualification in the final phase, in addition to a commercial failure with more than moderate enthusiasm on the side of the stands of the OM stadium.
Racing in Le Havre against Leinster in December 2022.
Credit: Getty Images
While the relocations of Racing are forced because of Arena planning, others are real blows, in order to promote rugby and fill larger stadiums. This was for example the case at the Anoeta Stadium (San Sebastian), on March 25th. Bayonne had hosted the Palois in Spain and lost (20-30) while he remains undefeated at Jean-Dauger this season. Evidence of a double-edged sword.
After a huge victory at home in their stadium, Max Spring’s teammates will have to make themselves at home to keep their 4th place. “I know and I repeat it, the next match against Toulon will be very difficult. I therefore hope that all rugby lovers from Le Havre will come to support us in this very important match.“, explained Travers to Rugbyrama. Not really reassuring.
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